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Workshop: Making Biochar and Milling Dimensional Lumber

  • 21 May 2022
  • 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
  • Grass Valley, CA
  • 8

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Come join us for a day of skill building in Grass Valley!

Workshop: Making Biochar and Milling Dimensional Lumber

Saturday, May 21, 2022, 9am-4pm, Grass Valley, CA



Join Darcey Messner and Leeds Davis for a day of important carbon capturing country skills. We will start at 9am with making Biochar in a Kon Tiki Kiln (open source pyrolysis kiln design from Switzerland). Experience the whole process from start to finish. Selecting and stacking wood, tending the fire, quenching the fire, innoculating, and putting to good use. Participants will all have the option to take some biochar home with them (cooled down from a previous batch). While the biochar is cooking in the kiln we will learn how to use and run a LucasMill individual sawmill for making dimensional lumber from trees harvested on the property. (Also an option for participants to take home some freshly dimensioned lumber!)

The workshop is taking place on an undeveloped property. Rustic toilet facilities. Wash water is on site but please bring your own drinking water. Bring your own protective gear: dust mask, eye protection, ear protection, gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, closed-toed shoes, and sun protection (hat, sunblock). It will be hot and sunny, there are some shade trees for resting under, but we will be working in the sun. 

Lunch, snacks and beverages will be provided. 

Registration cost is $40 per person. Some work-trade available. 

From Leeds and Darcey:

Biochar (from Wikipedia) "Biomass burning and natural decomposition releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane to the Earth's atmosphere. The biochar production process also releases CO2 (up to 50% of the biomass); however, the remaining carbon content becomes indefinitely stable.  Biochar carbon remains in the ground for centuries, slowing the growth in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Simultaneously, its presence in the earth can improve water quality, increase soil fertility, raise agricultural productivity, and reduce pressure on old-growth forests." 

What we are producing in the kiln is highly activated charcoal which, when inoculated with microbial and fungal microorganisms, through a brief composting process, creates a highly beneficial environment: a natural attractant, sanctuary, and incubator for microbial life and fungi by creating infrastructure for billions of organisms to thrive, while at the same time preserving the biochar (and it's carbon) in the soil long-term. 

Most individual sawmills are bandsaw types, which are great for making slabs…..not so useful for dimension lumber. We have a LucasMill from Australia, which is a swing-blade mill with a 17” circular blade. In a simple 2-pass cut, we are able to make any dimension lumber we need: 2x4s or 2x8s, 4x4s or 6x8s. We can make slabs as wide as 17”. We will typically mill logs 12” long and 32” in diameter.

The hosts and instructors for the day:

Darcey Messner became involved in residential design, engineering, and construction in 1994. In 2000 she established EcoEngineering, a structural engineering consulting practice which specialized in sustainable residential design, including 25 strawbale buildings. In 2006 Darcey cofounded the organization PAKSBAB, which built 40 strawbale houses and trained 70 local builders in Pakistan. In 2017 she went to work for the Town of Truckee as Plans Examiner, which led to her current job with CSG Consultants as a plans examiner. 

Leeds Davis, an old farm boy and builder, lends his expertise for the design and implementation in repurposing the neglected 3 acres they purchased in Grass Valley. Both Leeds and Darcey became interested in permaculture, and have certifications from the Permaculture Institute in Australia.

For more information contact Allison Arnold allisonannearnold@gmail.com or 301-357-0582

CASBA, a Project of the Tides Center.

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